Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Pale Blue Dot

I subscribe to the Nasa website which posts a new astronomy picture every day, along with a brief writeup about the image. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful the universe is and I often feel humbled by its sheer vastness and diversity. For all of mankind's achievements and conquests, we are still dwarfed by the majesty that is Mother Nature.

For example, take this recent picture of a 'solar eclipse' as taken from the shielded side of Saturn. While I have to admit that the planet's splendour did take my breathe away, I was even more affected by what the accompanying article noted as an "almost ignorable pale blue dot" that is Earth, visible on the image left just above the bright main rings of Saturn.

The writer then alluded to a very relevant quote from the renowned science fiction author and visionary, Carl Sagan:

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective to help us realise that we are not as important or indispensable as we'd like to think we are, be it as individuals or as a species.


Anonymous said...

Phew ... I am glad that my life is in God's hands .... yeah we are so insignificant .... but we are precious in His eyes ... Amen

Amazonman said...

And a big Amen to that. ;-)